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Standing about 70 miles off the coast of Key West is Fort Jefferson.  Touted as America's most inaccessible National Park, sitting on Garden Key, the fort was built in the mid 1800's.  Imagine the fun of trying ferry the 16 million bricks to the job by boat as well as everything else needed.  Water, food, labor ... it all had to be delivered by boat.  The interesting thing is that despite being manned by the army for all the years (until 1874) it never fired a shot in anger.  In fact even with the claim of being the largest brick building in the western hemisphere it was never finished.

During the Civil War this fort was not taken by the Southern forces and served the north well as a point to establish blockades of shipments to and from the southern states.  This after a few years proved to be a major shift in the war.  It's interesting to note that improvements made during the Civil War period are easily seen due to the color (red) of the bricks.  Obviously they had to source the bricks from their states which would not match the local bricks.  I'll stop with the boring stuff and move to some photos.

The contrast of the brick building against the water is beautiful when you approach it.

For navigation purposes prior to the GPS age each island had it's own lighthouse.  What would the route charts from the 1800's look like?  Sail 2 days BR @ lighthouse.

Here you'll notice two things.  Yes, that is a moat around a fort built on an island!  It was actually built to protect the fort walls from the sea (waves) instead of keeping any enemy from the walls.  Also notice the moat walls as well as the third level are red bricks.  That's the key to the era of it's construction.  These additions were made by prisoners of the Civil War who were mostly northern deserters or high profile people.  Of note was Dr. Mudd of the Lincoln assassination group.

 Here's an interior view of one of the artillery ports.  Note the whitewash looking paint.  It's made from local sand, corral and such to form a paste which served to reflect light.  Obviously around gun powder lanterns were a bad thing.  The floors are solid sections of slate in order to support the weight of the guns.  Some of the early era guns were barrel loaded which meant they had to be moved after each firing.


Here's a view down the interior ... this is really a large building.

Here's a shot of the interior courtyard.  The barracks that housed the enlisted men and officers were torn down due to being a sort of safety hazard.  You can still see the foundations.  The openings that are at the arches around the entire fort would have been closed if final construction had ever been completed.   

Here's a few more external shots. Every corner just brings more and more scenery.  Yet another place where a camera cannot do justice to the experience of being there.

We managed to snorkel around the entire fort and had a real blast.  Tired and a little bit sunburned it was time to head back to Key West.  Having lived in Florida since the late 80's I had never ventured that far south and despite not being a big bar or crowd person I rather enjoyed a quick getaway down in the Keys.  Will I go back?  Probably.  Would I recommend it as a destination for somebody looking to explore Florida?  Yes.  I'm sure the southern Florida natives have seen all of this hundreds of times but for me it was a first and fun attempt at playing tourist.



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Reply with quote  #2 

Very cool trip!

My son and I are planning an overnight camping expedition to Fort Jeff in November.

Great photos,


They're Always After
Me Lucky Charms!
Posts: 234
Reply with quote  #3 
Awesome pics!
I have always wanted to go there and love Key West, but it has been years
since I have been there. How much did the ferry ride/food/snorkeling trip cost?



Green Cove Springs, FL.

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Reply with quote  #4 
Very nice Mr. Driver...Very nice indeed!

Bert   09 KTM 530 07 Triumph Tiger 1050  06 Kawasaki KLR650 07 Yamaha YZ 250 1976 Husky WR250 1978 Suzuki RM250 1981 Honda CM 400 W/Velorex Sidecar Because the ride shouldn't end just because the pavement does! May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. -Edward Abbey Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Harold McAlindon

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Reply with quote  #5 
Politically incorrect as usual but if you go to Fort Jefferson from Key West now it is a fairy ride.

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Reply with quote  #6 
If memory serves me right the day trip to the fort cost us about $320 for the two of us.  There are two boats that go daily and another company that flies out on sea planes (more than double the price for half the time).  We took the Yankee Freedom II and would not hesitate to recommend them.  Everyone on the crew was friendly including the captain's dog who accompanies him daily.  The trip took all day so breakfast and lunch is included.  They even will loan you masks, snorkels and fins if you don't take your own.  Thumbs up on the day.     As I mentioned it was my first venture down there and I had a nice time.

We actually left the island,  motored about 15 minutes and had to do a quick return trip to pick up three campers who payed around and missed the boat.  The kicker is that they had already loaded their gear on the boat earlier!   That could have been a very, very long night.  Your camping trip should be spectacular that time of year.  Make sure to share some info after it's all said and done.

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